The Science Fair
Issue #51, Spring, 2012
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Einstein once said. His desire to open doors, to chart the world, dissect it, understand it, and make order out of chaos, echoes the experience of creation found in writing. Writers, too, work in solitude, inside their heads, solving problems and stitching together worlds. They calculate the geometry of human relationships, the velocity of a falling expectation, the force of a breaking heart. And yet, despite similarities, scientists and writers often find themselves grappling not only with the world but also with one another. Given the overlap of literary and scientific worlds, we at Tin House asked ourselves, why are they at odds? And could we, as a literary magazine, do anything to clear the air? Writers from both camps excitedly took up our challenge and, we think, succeeded in bridging the supposed divide. Andrea Barrett, who has been twining fiction and science for more than twenty years, braids the narrative of one man’s single-minded pursuit of genetic coding during the onset of World War II. Synethesia, the curious condition of overlapping senses that causes people to hear colors, or see tastes, seems like the stuff of fiction, but Rachel Riederer’s investigation proves it is in fact a very real, and very odd, medical condition. And the poets wrote about everything from nanobots to body doubles. As with writing and science, the act of reading, at bottom, is about exploration, looking at the world through a new lens, be it a microscope or a point of view, and being open to discovery. So join us. Turn the page and unlock something inside you.